Hemel Town twice battled back from a goal down and fought for more than 50 minutes with only ten men as they earned a draw against playoff hopefuls Dartford at Vauxhall Road yesterday (Saturday).
Last season, The Darts visited Hemel on the opening day of the campaign having just been relegated from the National League. Hemel took them by surprise in a 1-0 win (the Tudors goal coming from Ollie Hawkins). In the two fixtures since, both at Dartford’s Princes Park, Hemel drew 2-2 after being two goals up and this term lost 2-0.
The Kent side had been on a six-match unbeaten run until their defeat at Hemel’s rivals St Albans City last weekend, which left Tony Burman’s side in third place and ten points ahead of Hungerford Town in sixth.
Hemel enjoyed a nice early spell of possession but it came to nought as the ball carried out of play for a goal kick.
Darts forward Duane Ofori-Acheampong responded at the other end, fending off a defender and playing a cross-field ball over the top but it ran out of play. Dartford were trying to play but the Tudors were defending busily, shutting them down quickly and denying them time on the ball.
After a Hemel corner and a Dartford free-kick inside their own half both fizzled out, Ofori-Acheampong had another chance but his heavy touch allowed the ball to run through to Hemel keeper Jamie Butler.
The visitors were beginning to play the ball around, leading to a Luke Wanadio opportunity but his strike at the edge of the box was wild and failed to trouble Butler.
Soon after Alfie Pavey played a reversed ball to Wanadio but his strike was tame this time and Butler collected.
Hemel eased the pressure when earning a free-kick just inside the Dartford half but the shot at the end of a move was easily covered by Deren Ibrahim in the Dartford net.
Wanadio, a handful all afternoon, then used some trickery to earn a free-kick for the Darts. Wanadio squared the ball to Ofori-Acheampong but his shot was off target.
After missing a ball over the top, Elliot Bradbrook pounced on a bad touch from the Hemel midfield but failed to find Wanadio on the wing.
On 33 minutes, the pressure finally told and Dartford were awarded a penalty. Bradbrook duly stepped up to despatch the spot-kick and give the visitors a 1-0 advantage.
The lead was to be short-lived, however, as Hemel did well to respond and equalised from a counter attack just eight minutes later. Charlie Sherringham, son of Spurs and England legend Teddy, finished the break-away for his ninth goal since joining the Tudors on loan from Ebbsfleet in late January.
Since losing former top-scorer Jake Robinson to lower-league Billericay Town a fortnight ago, Sherringham’s goals are even more vital than ever.
(Incidentally, Robinson scored again for his new masters yesterday in Billericay’s 2-0 win over Leiston in the Ryman Premier League).
However, the game was irrevocably changed not long after Sherringham had got Town back in the game. Dartford midfielder Lee Noble was felled by the Tudors 21-year-old winger Rohdell Gordon and the referee judged it worthy of a red card.
Into the second-half, and Dartford started strongly with the man advantage. The ball was put into Hemel’s net early on but the linesman came to the Tudors’ rescue and ruled it offside.
Dartford were pressing high but not finding any end product while Hemel enjoying several spells of holding onto the ball while not creating many chances.
After the hour mark, Hemel were doing well to be holding the fort but on 61 minutes, the visitors re-took the lead from a Wanadio finish.
A free-kick went wide as Hemel searched for an equaliser and it finally came through a wonderful strike from Tony Diagne on 73 minute to make it 2-2.
And Hemel thought they had secured a famous comeback victory with around quarter-of-an-hour left. Sherringham had the ball in the net - but again the linesman intervened and ruled it out for offside.
Ofori-Acheampong was lucky to remain on the pitch with just under ten minutes to go. He had been booked on 70 minutes and clattered in with another meaty foul towards the end but the ref kept the cards in his pocket.
It was ten-man Hemel who looked the more likely to grab a late winner and in time added-on a goalmouth scramble from a corner saw their keeper Ibrahim fail to collect the ball and it ricochetted around before eventually going out of play.
The draw leaves Hemel in 12th place with five games to go. Rivals St Albans, just one point and two places above them in the table, drew 0-0 at playoff-chasing Hungerford Town while East Thurrock United, in 13th, lost 2-3 when hosting Whitehawk.
Next up for the Tudors is an away trip to north-west London next Saturday, April 8, where they face eighth-placed Wealdstone, who yesterday lost 5-1 to Eastbourne Borough, in 11th. It’s congested around the mid-table slots and any run of consecutive wins in the remaining games could push a team as high as ninth.